Almeria, Andalusia, Spain

Almeria, population 190,000, is located in southeastern Spain on the Mediterranean Sea. As Spain transitioned to democratic rule in the late 1970s, some communities used TDR as a means of acquiring open space and saving historic buildings despite scant public resources. Although the relevant planning law, passed in 1976, did not explicitly provide for TDR, acceptance occurred following two favorable decisions of the Supreme Court in 1982. The small town of Elda-Petrer (Valencia) is credited with introducing TDR to Spain in 1978. Thereafter the mid-sized cities of Jerez (Andalusia), Getafe (Madrid) and Almeria (Andalusia) also adopted TDR programs. In general, these TDR programs included a Standard Development Right expressed as floor area ratio (FAR) uniformly applied to all properties within a zoning district. The Standard Development Right could not be used on sites designated for public facilities such as public open space, but could be transferred to sites not designated for public facilities, essentially the receiving sites. The sending site owners could sell their unusable FAR directly to the private owners of receiving sites and transfer ownership of the property to the city; alternatively, sending site owners could sell the property to the city, after which the city would offset its costs by selling the FAR to developers of receiving sites. The receiving site owners could exceed the Standard Development Right baseline by buying FAR and building up to a higher maximum FAR (Blanc, 2008).

In Almeria, the city used TDR to inexpensively acquire open space and historic landmarks. Following the demolition between 1950 and 1980 of 90 percent of all buildings constructed before 1900, Almeria’s democratically-elected city council prohibited the demolition of designated landmarks, which included small palaces and the historic Liceo Theater. Property owners could restore and retain these landmarks for private use, a practice that was not initially very appealing to most developers. Alternatively, developers could buy a designated landmark for the sole purpose of transferring TDRs from that sending site, using it to exceed baseline on a receiving site and donating the historic property to the city. In this process, the city secured historic properties for public use with no acquisition cost although money still had to be found to rehabilitate these aged structures. Note that TDRs could only be transferred from a sending site that was donated to the city. Transfers could occur between zones that had baselines ranging from FAR 0.8 to 2.0. The program allocated more TDRs to sending site properties with historic structures in recognition of the fact that these donated properties were more valuable than vacant land. Since a historic property must be donated to the city, there is no deduction for the size of the historic structure; rather, the transferable floor area is calculated by multiplying the site size by the standard development right times a bonus ratio, such as a 50 percent increase (Blanc, 2008).

The Almeria program generated 146 TDR purchases between 1984 and 1988, resulting in the building of 1,800 new dwelling units. In the mid-1980s, transfers tended to generate open space for the city while the transfers in later years emphasized acquisition of historic structures. However the tool eventually became obsolete as developers became increasingly interested in retaining, restoring and reusing older buildings (Blanc, 2008).


Blanc, F. (2008) Spain: non-financial compensation instruments and the Valencia model, in Janssen-Janssen, L., Spaans, M., & Van der Veen, M. (ed.) New Instruments in Spatial Planning: An International Perspective on Non-Financial Compensation. Amsterdam: IOS Press.